Former GEAR UP Student Credits Program for Success

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SAN JUAN – The GEAR UP program first started in the Rio Grande Valley more than 15 years ago. Many students have overcome obstacles and gone on to be success stories.

One such student is Maria Ibarra. She’s currently a researcher and adult literacy specialist at La Union del Pueblo Entero or LUPE in San Juan.

“For me and my family, my mom only had a sixth grade education and we did not know what college looked like, what the path to college looked like,” she recalled. “GEAR UP was there to help give my family information about college.”

Ibarra said she owes most of her success to the program.

“Well I have been with GEAR UP since I was in seventh grade and I graduated. So it followed me from seventh grade all the way to senior year. And I think one of the things that I took from GEAR UP is that there is a community ready to help you and to provide the resources that you know you’re lacking,” Ibarra said.

GEAR UP has taught her to pay it forward at her new job.

“My day-to-day as a literacy specialist here at LUPE is basically making sure that members who come and sign up for classes regarding English and citizenship are placed into classes, and if there is a wait list, or something like that, we make sure that we find alternatives for them, so that they can start getting ready to start learning the English language and pass their citizenship exam,” she said.

Ibarra said her GEAR UP community always went the extra mile to help her, even after graduation.

“And I think one of the things that it helped me do, even though it followed me to my senior year in high school, when I was in college I was able to find resources and look for alternatives or answers to my questions that I had,” she said.

You can catch GEAR UP segments on Thursdays on CHANNEL 5 NEWS at 5.